That pantheistic, mystical “Thou art God!” chorus that runs through the book is not offered as a creed, but as an existentialist assumption of personal responsibility, devoid of all godding. It says, “Don’t appeal for mercy to God the Father up in the sky, little man, because he’s not at home and never was at home, and couldn’t care less. What you do with yourself, whether you are happy or unhappy–live or die–is strictly your business and the universe doesn’t care. In fact, you may be be the universe and the only cause for your troubles. But, at best, the most you can hope for is comradeship with comrades no more divine (or just as divine) as you are. So quit sniveling and face up to it — “Thou art God!”
— October 21, 1960 Robert A. Heinlein to Lurton Blassingame
Grumbles from the Grave, Virginia G. Heinlein, ed.
It’s all your creation.
No, really, it is. Your entire life is what you made it.
No, don’t tell me how rotten your parents were to you, or tell me horror stories about bad partners. Not saying that what got done to you might not have sucked. It probably did. I’ve heard some horror stories in my time and I am genuinely sorry for anyone who has had a rough time. I ain’t trying to blow off the fact that things happen that really are terrible.
Thing is, no matter what got done to you, what you did with it is actually what makes your life.
And what makes your life is utterly, totally and completely up to you.
You’re free. Right now. In this very second, you are completely free to choose what you want to do with your life. You might feel like this is not so, but I promise you that who you are, where you are and what you are is due to the choices you made. If you do not like any of these things, you are free to make different choices to change them.
“Free to choose” does not mean that your choice will be easy, or the execution of a particular desire will be automatic. That’s where a lot of people trip up. They think if it ain’t easy, or if it’s got a heavy price, then they aren’t really free. Many times, choices can have a heavy price, indeed. But don’t think you can escape the price of your choices.
Friends, life doesn’t work that way.
“‘Thou art God.’ It’s not a message of cheer and hope, Jubal. It’s a defiance–and an unafraid unabashed assumption of personal responsibility… But I rarely put it over… The notion that the effort has to be their own… and that all the trouble they are in is of their own doing.. is one they can’t or won’t entertain.”
Thing is, even if you do accept this personal responsibility, there’s one more great nasty pitfall waiting for you.
God, what a horrid, poisonous little barb that can be. You can choose to be paralyzed by it. You have one more escape clause if you want to avoid taking responsibility for yourself. You can choose to hate yourself, and not act because you’re so rotten — because you made such bad and foolish and unloving and unworkable choices. You can hate yourself down into your bones for how terrible you are, and then you can be paralyzed from acting and wave your bleeding wounds like a flag.
If you think I’m saying that self hatred is a form of procrastination and laziness, you’re very right. It is. Hating yourself is a block to change, or trying to weasel out of accepting what is. Think about it, if I want to be able to bench press 40 lbs, and I can only bench 12, hating myself is not going to help. Lifting that 12 lbs until it’s easy and then lifting something that’s heavier is what’s going to do the real good. The only thing self-hatred and guilt is going to do is give you a socially acceptable excuse not to try. People pity those in pain, as they should, but sometimes it’s weaseling. It also lets you avoid confronting the idea that maybe you don’t particularly want to work on whatever it is you feel guilty about. Me? I say step up to the plate and admit you don’t want to work on whatever it is and let it go. You’re already dealing with the consequences of your choices, so what the hell?
It’s a very freeing feeling to realize that everything you do, you choose to do. It’s also a great way to get rid of the guilt monster.
Not too long ago, one of my kids was ill and up a lot in the night. I got very little sleep attending to the child. Now, I normally get up around 0500 so that I can be at the gym to work out when it opens1. I chose not to go and swim that morning. Not “I was up with a sick child and could not go”. I chose not to go. Conscious. Decided. Understanding the consequences. <grin> I also chose to lose sleep to attend to the child2. Because I knew these were conscious choices, I did spend my time frustrated at what was going on, but simply dealt with what was in front of me free from any anger or resentment at loss of sleep.
Tonight, I am choosing to have my favorite Appletini. As a beginning bodybuilder, I know that alcohol adds excess calories that do nothing to help build muscles — indeed is catabolic to them, and suppresses the testosterone I need to build muscle, while preventing fat metabolism. I accept this choice. I will never look like a fitness model choosing this. And I am choosing to enjoy my drink. Because I am choosing it with open eyes, I have the opportunity to look at it free of guilt and self hatred and any of that foolishness.
Facing up to the fact that everything you do is something you’re choosing can be difficult. Sometimes you learn some not so flattering things about yourself3. Sometimes you take a good, hard look and realize you’ve been making some choices that are very pleasing to you, indeed.
But in all ways it is freeing. It frees you from resentment, because you accept that everything you do is a choice. How can you resent someone else if you’re the one choosing? It frees you to act with wisdom because you’re conscious that every minute you’re choosing your behavior, and constructing your future.
1I’m not really all that fond of working out, but I want to get stronger. So I choose to go early and get it out of the way so I don’t wind up wasting time making excuses.
2Of course it was a choice. People do choose not to look after their children, after all. It’s not a choice I admire, but it’s a choice.
3And learning to face up to that without using the escape of self-hatred is quite the challenge!